Monday, June 10, 2013

Google and Waze said near $1.3 billion acquisition

Google Maps are -- generally -- considered the gold standard for mobile mapping, but an acquisition that is said to be near final may cast some doubt on that. Google, it was reported on Sunday, is close to inking a deal with Waze for its social mapping app.

Facebook and Waze were apparently in negotiations, but those talks broke down last week.

No deal has been signed yet, but sources said that it is likely to be finalized in the coming days. One source said the acquisition could be announced as early as Tuesday, with the deal possibly reaching more than $1.3 billion, according to Globes, as Israeli media site which first reported news of the impending acquisition.

Waze is based in Israel, and it was reported that, during the Facebook talks, there was contentiousness over possibly moving the development team from Israel to the U.S.

Waze will remain an independent entity -- at least for now, one source added, which might calm the nerves of users who might fears that the app is being purchased simply to keep it out of the hands of rivals, and that Google will either kill or significantly alter it.

Waze is available on both iOS and Android, and has a social aspect to it, which is what attracted Facebook. Not only do users crowdsource accidents, police, traffic and more, they also participate in correcting map and navigation errors. Doing so earns users "points" that add a sort of gaming aspect to the app.

Waze isn't a huge player in mapping software, with only 47 million registered users. Of those, in fact, less than a third -- 32 percent -- are active. Still the deal might attract regulatory scrutiny that will slow the process: there are only a few global sources of mapping data: Google, Navteq, TomTom, OpenStreetMap -- and Waze.

In terms of inaccuracy though, and possibly harming the Google Maps brand, full disclosure: When attempting to get to the Exploratorium last weekend, we used Waze. It navigated us to the old location of the tourist attraction, not the new revamped one at Pier 15.

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